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May 4, 2018

Writing with Purpose by @CMNorthauthor

by C. M. North



Something that comes to mind frequently when I look at the reactions to my writing is whether the idea, the core nugget of meaning that spawned the entire length of prose, is received by the reader. Did they get the point? Perhaps more importantly, did I successfully make the point? And, for that matter, did I even know what point I was trying to make?

I think that there are many reasons for writing—as many as there are for reading. People read for fun, for education, for drama; they read to escape and they read to feel. Sometimes, a great story can combine some or all of these components, and create something truly special: a masterpiece that stays with you forever.

When I was young, I read exclusively for fun. I read Star Trek novels and Star Wars novels, I read children’s fiction like The Magic Bicycle, and I read young adult fiction like Tomorrow, When the War Began. I read Douglas Adams, and I read lots and lots of Stephen King. And I was mesmerized by the worlds created and the fantasies explored, but I never really stopped to consider if there was a deeper message behind the stories. In all honestly, I doubt, for the most part, that there was.

To Kill a Mockingbird
I also read classics. I read Frankenstein and Dracula, I read To Kill a Mockingbird and Great Expectations. Some of these are, to this day, my favorite books of all time. And even these I read primarily for the pure enjoyment of a well-told story. I read Harper Lee’s masterpiece long before it was part of the school curriculum, before dissection and analysis could ruin the story for me.

And there’s nothing wrong with books written for entertainment. I think most stories are. Even those most allegorical of tales (e.g. The Narnia Chronicles) serve a primary function of entertaining. But through entertainment, some very valid points can be made about life, society, and the world in general.

When I started writing myself back in 2011, I knew that I wanted to create something that could help serve a purpose, something deeper than just light reading and entertainment. The world of Erâth, explored through the ongoing Redemption of Erâth series, was a fantasy world I built to describe at great metaphorical length the impossibility of overcoming mental illness such as depression. While none of the characters outright suffer from depression, the entire world itself is overcome with Darkness, and despite the most valiant efforts of the heroes to save it, it (so far) seems to only get darker. I wrote this because I wanted to help my then-seven-year-old son understand that there are some things the human mind cannot overcome.

And while I continue to work on that series, he’s grown into a young man now, and I think that there are some points that can afford to be made with a little more clarity. And this is where my young adult novel, 22 Scars, comes in. It isn’t an allegory; it isn’t a metaphor. It tackles depression and mental illness head-on, describing abuse and self-harm in no uncertain terms. It’s fiction, yes, but fiction with a purpose. It’s fiction that serves to educate.

You see, issues such as mental illness are more often than not swept under the rug and dismissed by society at large as something to be ashamed of, to be hidden, and this is something I want to change. 22 Scars tells a story of what can happen when abuse is allowed to proliferate, when people don’t talk to each other, when the help that could so easily be had is cast aside. It’s tragic but mostly tragic in its avoidability.

I had two purposes with 22 Scars: to let sufferers know they aren’t alone, and to let those who love them understand a little better what they might be going through. And in some cases, I think people have understood that. Sometimes they didn’t and were confused by the pacing, jumps and apparent disconnect. I’ve learned from this, and will certainly be more cognizant of reader perception in future works.

But at the end of the day, I think that literature and storytelling can serve a powerful purpose in more than just entertaining us and blanking our minds to reality for a few short hours. I think that, when done right, it can also open our minds to reality, and enlighten us about things we were unknowingly ignoring. And while superhero movies and rom-coms might fall at the levity-end of the spectrum, there is plenty of room for tales that simultaneously engage, entertain and educate.

And I think that these are often the best stories there are.

C.M. North is a trained musician, coffee addict and author of 22 Scars, a young adult novel about teenage depression and growing up with tragedy and trauma. He lives in northern New Jersey with his wife, son and cat Pia, who insists she take precedence over writing. You can find him at cmnorthauthor.com

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